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Jazz Review : Charting Henderson To The Tune Of His Songs

August 19, 1986|ZAN STEWART

As an arranger, William Henderson writes dandy string backgrounds for jazzmen like Horace Silver and David Benoit. As a songwriter, he's got a ways to go.

Henderson's 13-tune set Sunday at At My Place, featuring a 10-piece band with guest vocalists, was long on shine and short on emotional or musical content. Too many of the selections came off with a Las Vegas glitziness, and not enough with plain old soul. As there was good talent on hand, things could have been turned around.

Still, there were high points. Singer Bill Henderson (no relation), whose resonant warble is always refreshing, did an admirable job with a ballad, "This Ol' Love of Mine," and "My Heart Belongs to You," which alternated between a slow, rousing stomper and a brisk, uptempo jazz tune. These snappy renditions were apparently unrehearsed, for Henderson read the lyrics off sheets of music, with his back to half of the house during "Heart."

Singers Don and Alicia Cunningham--singing solo, as a duet, in a trio with Dini Clarke and a quartet with Clarke and Henderson--delivered quality performances, too, but much of the material was innocuous. "Charlie Splits" was fun, though, as Don Cunningham offered a tongue-defying scat solo at an outrageously speedy tempo. The crowd loved this--as it did the rest of the show.

Of the instrumentalists, Ron King issued bop-tinged solos on trumpet and fluegelhorn, giving the evening a taste of jazz. Reedman Sam Riney, violist Jimbo Ross and Benoit were also featured; the pianist's brief "Dance for Piano and Chamber Orchestra," which had a bizarre hoedown spirit, was the only non-Henderson composition played.

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